Microcrystalline wax is a substance extracted from petroleum oil which has a number of uses, including its occasional use in the making of paper packaging. This wax can greatly increase the strength of paper, so much so that in some cases that this treated paper can replace tin and steel. It is also used in other industries for the manufacture of rubbers, cosmetics, adhesives, construction materials, and various types of polishes. Microcrystalline waxes began being used in the 1920s.
Microcrystalline waxes can be manufactured by refining the residue of crude petroleum oil, or by removing the oil from petroleum jelly with some kind of solvent. Depending on which solvent is used and at what temperature this is done, different varieties of wax can be made. There are also various methods of separating wax from petroleum jelly. These include solvent dilution, centrifuging, chilling, filtering, or a combination of these methods.
There are many varieties of microcrystalline waxes, based on the source, method, and amount of refinement. Some are brittle, while others others are ductile, some are crumbly, while others are durable, and some are cream-colored, while others are brown. In general, these waxes tend to have a scent and taste which can be undesirable. However, this can vary based on variety, and in small quantities such smell and taste is not usually a problem for most purposes. Depending on the variety, most commercial grade microcrystalline waxes have melting temperatures between 145° and 200° Fahrenheit (63° to 93° Celsius).
Microcrystalline waxes are composed of saturated aliphatic hydrocarbons.
- The World Book Encyclopedia. 2001 ed. Vol. 13. Chicago: World Book, 2001. Print. Page 514
- "microcrystalline wax." Encyclopaedia Britannica. Britannica Academic. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 30 Apr. 2016. <http://0-academic.eb.com.www.consuls.org/EBchecked/topic/380347/microcrystalline-wax>.